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Review: Moth and Spark

20453425Moth and Spark by Anne Leonard (Headline, 2014) received with thanks from Bookbridgr

He’s cursed with an impossible task. She’s blessed with magical visions.

Together they can save a divided Empire.

Prince Corin has been given the task of freeing the dragons from their bondage to the Empire. However, it seems that that not even the dragonriders themselves know how these terrifying beasts are kept under control.

When Tam, a doctor’s daughter, arrives in the capital she makes an amazing discovery: she is a Seer, gifted with visions.

Sparks fly when Corin and Tam meet … but it’s not all happily ever after. Not only is the prince forbidden to marry a commoner, but war is coming to Caithen. Torn between love and duty, they must work together to uncover the secret that threatens to destroy their country.

Well. This book was full of surprises.

The thing is, look at the cover (I know, I know, don’t judge..) it looks like it’s yelling ‘I’M A GOTHIC BOOK!’ at me.

But then I started reading it and it became clear it was going to be an epic fantasy.

Oh.. wait. We get to court proper and suddenly it’s like classic English Lit combined with medieval court politics and gossip..

What is this book? I was just confused throughout.

Corin, our main man, the big show, the.. ok. I’ll stop. We’re introduced to him first, and he has some meeting with a dragon and then forgets it. And then we meet the girl (I’ve already forgotten her name, sorry..) and she has might, maybe, perhaps have some magic powers that could be useful. Who knows? And then these two meet and POW insta-love. Let’s toss all mistresses and wives aside. Who cares? With this beautiful buxom serving wench..

Hm.

The narrative, as a whole, was difficult for me. I felt like I was plodding through mud. I didn’t feel a natural flow or that I was being shown anything- just tell, tell tell.

Ultimately, this book wasn’t for me. The writing, to me, was clunky and awkward. I’m not usually a fan of ‘olde’ type language in literature, unless, of course, it’s a classic (and then it’s totes nouveau!) I couldn’t help but feel like this book was confused about what it wanted to be. I’m all for genre bending, but if this was intended to be a hybrid then it’s not working for me.

I really liked the idea of this book, but it just didn’t cut it for me. Not my cup of tea. 1/5.

 

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‘There are too many white faces’ in kids books?

I read an article featured on the Guardian online today, and I’m not sure how I feel about it.

The title of this post is taken from that article where author James Dawson speaks about the need for diversity in children’s fiction.

“I wonder if, as authors, we subconsciously leave diversity ‘to someone else”

This is probably true. For me, at least. I’m not scared of including ‘diversity’ in my writing, but it’s much like the problem I had when I was writing for a Post-Colonial module last year at university.

I don’t feel like I know enough about anything other than being:

“white, straight, able-bodied and middle-class”

I enjoy pushing boundaries but I feel like I’d be doing a character a serious injustice because I have no experience of being gay, or black, or muslim, or physically impaired. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. What I mean is, I don’t think it would be fair for me to assume that kind of diversity or culture.

And I don’t think it’s fair to poke at authors and say ‘Stop writing about white people.’

 “you don’t know [are] LGBT … until you’re wrapped up in the plot”.

He says of stories like Tess Sharpe’s ‘Far From You’. And that’s shows the flipside for me. How often is a character’s race or sexuality made obvious? Sure, if it’s a romance, you’re gonna know if he/she is into guys or girls (or both). But there are some books that don’t mention the colour of a character’s skin and it’s only later when I think about it, or if an author is asked, that it becomes clear if the character is black, white, or whatever beautiful shade they may be.

Stories should still be ways to escape for young people. Sure, I think diversity is important. But if the market was saturated with books that aim to tackle issues of diversity, we’d have a very different reading experience unfolding for the younger generation.

As long as the ‘diversity’ is appropriate to the story being told, then authors should go for it. It’s important. But shoving it into a book because of this frenzied panic to be all inclusive runs the risk of people/issues becoming ‘token’ or ‘tacked on’.

What do y’all think?

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Review: Finding It by Cora Carmack

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Finding It by Cora Carmack (borrowed from the library)

Sometimes you have to lose yourself to find where you truly belong…

Most girls would kill to spend months traveling around Europe after college graduation with no responsibility, no parents, and no-limit credit cards. Kelsey Summers is no exception. She’s having the time of her life . . . or that’s what she keeps telling herself.

It’s a lonely business trying to find out who you are, especially when you’re afraid you won’t like what you discover. No amount of drinking or dancing can chase away Kelsey’s loneliness, but maybe Jackson Hunt can. After a few chance meetings, he convinces her to take a journey of adventure instead of alcohol. With each new city and experience, Kelsey’s mind becomes a little clearer and her heart a little less hers. Jackson helps her unravel her own dreams and desires. But the more she learns about herself, the more Kelsey realizes how little she knows about Jackson.

Well, it was ok.

My main problem throughout this book is that I felt no spark, no zing between the two characters. Kelsey and Hunt just had zero chemistry for me.

I loved the setting(s) and I thought the atmosphere and ‘feel’ of each place was captured wonderfully in the writing. I was having a love affair with Italy… but not with the characters! Ha!

There were some moments/descriptions that didn’t make sense to me. Like, they jump out of the pool and go and buy drinks.. *whispers* where was their money? But I’m a nitpicker.. so maybe these little things won’t worry others.

I will say that towards the end I was starting to warm up to the ‘ship. the intimacy, the closeness, the friendship further explored- there were some really sweet scenes, as well as some hot ones too! But it felt almost like it was too late to repair the damage already done.

There’s a WHOPPER of a twist at the end. I’ll give it that much! And some of the previous actions made much more sense.

All in all I gave this book 3 out of 3 because despite feeling a lack of electricity between the characters, I still found myself enjoying the read. It was an easy story to get into and it was written well. This is the third in a series (but I think their all standalones within a series? Much like other NA series’) and I would definitely pick up other titles by this author if they appeared in the library.

I like the covers for this series though. Very much. *thumbs*

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Book Talk: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

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Ok, so I didn’t trust myself to do my usual ‘review’ type post about this one. I’m not sure I can be trusted to say ANYTHING without gushing like a crazy fan girl. But I’ll try my best.

I’m not gonna lie, I was put off this book by all the hype. I’m usually the anomaly that ends up not really liking a hyped-up book and then I feel all disappointed and icky. That ‘what’s wrong with me?’ feeling when you stare at the mediocre 3 stars you’ve given something when everyone else has given it 5.

Well hell. This time I could breathe a sigh of relief. I LOVED this book.

There is something beautiful and refreshing about the realness to the characters and their interactions. It’s not a straightforward love story, but then, when is love ever easy? But it wasn’t outrageously ridiculous. Every twist and turn felt like I was reading a page out of my own teenage years! (minus the French boarding school..)

Anna is easy to identify with. She’s got her quirks and she’s wonderfully ‘average’ and that’s what makes her shine. She’s beautiful because she’s herself, and I think that is an important message for younger adults. For sure.

The setting is.. well.. it’s PARIS!

One thing I will comment on is this strange ‘degree of separation’ thing I felt while reading this. Within the book, Anna et al discuss in class the issues related to translated texts. And it stuck with me. Because when you think about it (too much) I’m a Brit, seeing through the eyes of an American, in France, talking to another Englishman.. It’s a weird process of interpretation.

This book surprised me by how much I became invested in it. The real world disappeared and I was loathe to have to put it down. I was also impressed with the ‘maturity’ of it. There are varying areas of maturity within YA literature, but for me, this was spot on. It was that small step further than simply being ‘teen’ but it was still obvious the characters had things to learn and work out about themselves and life.

A fantastic read. I went and got me the next two the day after. Stephanie Perkins has landed herself in my ‘favourite authors’ list just like that *clicks*.

Anna + Etienne FTW!! :D

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Book Talk: Fracture and Vengeance by Megan Miranda

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Cool covers eh?

So, I borrowed these two from the library last week and boy was I glad!

Here’s the blurb for Fracture:

When Decker found Delaney kissing his best friend Carson, he told himself that it meant nothing. But then Carson calls to Delaney from across the vast frozen lake. Jealous, Decker insists they walk over the fragile ice. Halfway, he leaves her there …Ten minutes without air, Delaney will be dead. Decker pulls her out of the icy waters after eleven. Delaney is alive, but now she is drawn to those who are dying …and to stranger, Troy – someone Decker should see as a threat

This book rocked. I mean, I loved Delaney and I found it real easy to let myself fall into the story. She’s not weak, but she’s not indestructible, and I think that’s really important, especially for a contemporary YA title. We need more ‘normal’ protagonists.

But hell, she’s not what most would call ‘normal’, her brain works differently. She’s a miracle. She’s an abomination. She’s brilliant! Although, I really wouldn’t like to be able to ‘sense’ death in people. What a horrible line you have to tread between what is right for you and them.

I enjoyed the story of Fracture very much. I would have liked to have seen more from Troy (because, swoon!) but even I didn’t predict the ending of this book to be so.. final.. for him.

Fracture is clever. It toys with the psychology of paranormal possibilities. And this is then built upon in Vengeance. Blurb:

Falcon Lake wants vengeance. And so, it seems, does someone else… An intense, heart-rending psychological thriller to accompany the chilling and seductive Fracture

When Decker drags his best friend Delaney’s lifeless body out of the frozen lake, he makes a deal: Anyone but her. Everyone but her. The lake releases her. It takes another…

All their friends blame Delaney for Carson’s death. But Decker knows the truth: Delaney is drawn to those who are dying, and she would have tried to help Carson.

Or so Decker believes until a body lies in front of him in a pool of water on his kitchen floor. Until he sees in Delaney’s eyes that she knew this would happen too – and she said nothing. Until he realises it isn’t the lake that is looking for revenge – Delaney is part of someone else’s plan.

I wasn’t as ‘spellbound’ by this sequel. I think it was the change in perspective- we’re now reading from Decker’s point of view. Which, makes sense, in part. I think much of the suspense and tension would be lost if we were seeing it all through Delaney’s eyes. It would lose some of its mystery.

But Decker is so frustrating!

He walks around pissed off at the world for two thirds of this book, and that can be wearying to read, you know?

I did, however, get a stronger sense of what this pack of teens must be feeling like. Decker is the everydude’s dude. But man, it was heartbreaking to watch him push Delaney away time, after time, after time. And there was a little part of me that wanted her to push back long before she actually did.. and harder. Stupid boys.

I thought that aside from the main plot, there were some interesting questions asked here about growing up and coming of age- like when you’re parents have to have that awkward talk with you because you’re dead set on following your beau across the country so you can go to the same college. It’s difficult because, of course, for some people it’s a massive mistake. But for others, the only mistake is choosing NOT to follow them, true?

There’s also a wonderful handling of life and death here, and the effects it can have on younger peoples.

I admire the way the whole family unit is brought into the equation in these books- and it’s quite refreshing to have the main characters in steady, functional family settings. Sure, there’s problems, but the author has her characters work them through.

__

I  found these two books so easy to slip into. Sure, I enjoyed the first better than the second, but I was too invested in the characters not to continue!

I like how this approaches the plot/themes. I think it could have been easy to fall back on the supernatural or paranormal, but instead there is something decidedly more human lurking behind each action and motion.

The writing is blummin’ good. I enjoyed the descriptions of the lake and how it permeated the rest of the narrative.

A very happy 4/5 overall for these two. (I gave Fracture 4/5 and Vengeance 3.5/5 on Goodreads) It’s darn good writing. I was a little sad this wasn’t a trilogy. I’d liked to have followed these characters further.

 

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How much do you read when you write?

This is a question for all kinds of writers- fiction writers, poets, bloggers..

I’m intrigued to know how much of y’all read while you’re writing.

From a blogging point of view, I do wonder sometimes how many of us actually get out there and read other content. I know I try to keep tabs on those in my WordPress reader, as well as others I follow on twitter. But I know of at least one person that just posts. They don’t read. (they admitted it to me via email.. and since they won’t be reading this I don’t feel bad about saying it! Heh heh)

And is that fair?

People blog for different reasons, but ultimately, you want to be read. But it seems hypocritical not to go ou there and read/comment on what other people are doing. Also, I know that if I didn’t scour the blogging community for new and exciting posts, I would lose out on a ton of inspiration and potential content for my own blog. True?

For fiction writers.. I don’t understand how anyone can improve their craft if they don’t read. Again, I know there were people who while studying for a Creative Writing degree, admitted that they didn’t read books.

Really?

I think you only do yourself a disservice if you don’t look at what’s already out there, and learn from the good and from the not so good.

I’m just interested to hear other opinions on the reading/writing ratio?

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Review: If You Leave by Courtney Cole

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If You Leave (Beautifully Broken #2) by Courtney Cole received from bookbridgr

26-year old Gabriel Vincent is a badass hero. Or he used to be, anyway. As an ex-Army Ranger, Gabe never thought he needed anyone. But after one horrible night in Afghanistan scars him in a way that he can’t get past, he needs someone who can help him heal…even if he doesn’t realize it.

25-year old Madison Hill doesn’t need anybody…or so she thinks. She grew up watching her parents’ messed-up abusive relationship and she knows there’s no way in hell that she’s ever letting that happen to her.

They don’t know it in the beginning, but Gabriel and Madison will soon develop a weakness: Each other.

But Gabriel’s got a secret, a hidden monster that he’s afraid Maddy could never overcome… And Maddy’s got issues that she’s afraid Gabe will never understand. They quickly realize that they need each other to be whole, but at the same time they know that they’ve got demons to fight.

And the problem with demons is that they never die quietly.

I actually enjoyed this more than the first book. We’ve moved on to Mila’s sister for the focus of this book and I liked her a whole lot better. There were some moments where I was confused which of the two was supposed to be older, sometimes Madison seemed much younger than she was supposed to be.

I thought there were a few things that made this book ‘ok’ rather than ‘great’, and these include-

Not quite insta-love but… – Madison and Gabe barely know each other. They nearly hook up, then they hook up.. and then he takes off.. they can’t have spent more than a couple waking hours together, really, but they have it bad, like ‘we’ve been together for ten years’ rather than ten minutes.

Sometimes it’s plausible, but here there just wasn’t enough page time for this ‘ship for me to really believe the depth of emotion that is implied.

Warningly – Don’t you hate it when one teeny tiny thing interrupts an intensely emotional scene, and ruins it? Well, this word did it for me. Suddenly I was out, the main characters could have died at this point and I wouldn’t have been paying attention because I had that niggly word at the front of my mind. Is it even a word? If not, why the heck is it in there?!

PTSD – is a serious issue. I know this. I’ve seen its effects on people. That said, it doesn’t mean I want to read through the therapy process, you know? It’s not really doing anything for character or plot.. not really. We could have skipped to ‘yay! I’ve had the therapy!’ And then I felt guilty for feeling bored.. :s

There were some bits that I thought were real page-turner moments. Like the whole drama with Mila and her pregnancy. And I thought the opening chapter to this book was class. Fast paced and sexy.. I was just a little sad that it didn’t keep this up.

What I will say is that I truly appreciate the presence of contraception in this book. I’ve mentioned it before- I don’t understand why anyone would consider having sex with someone, even if you love them, without appropriate contraception. I mean, regardless of who and what, you’re gonna use a condom for the first time at least, yeah? I was glad to see it handled with maturity in this book.

I enjoyed the story and I like how the characters become interwoven from book to book. I’m looking forward to reading the next one. In the end I gave this book a healthy 3 out of 5 because it didn’t wow me, but I did become invested in the characters.

:)